Loving words that mark the end of my Baltic adventure

Slowly but steady I’m starting to realize that after this summer holiday I won’t head back to the Baltics. At least, not for study or internship purposes. The final report for the Dutch ‘VSBfonds’ (the organization that provided me a fantastic scholarship) is approved and besides that, I recently found a very postive article about my functioning on the Study in Lithuanian portal. Just because I’m rather proud of all these kind words from Lithuania I’ll share the article right here. No idea who the author is actually, but this person surely managed to sketch an overall profile of my previous two years in both Kaunas and Tallinn. Thanks!

 

Smiles, spirit of initiative and contagious enthusiasm, these are the three first words that come to our mind when we think about Nienke Bos, the recently graduated student at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU). Nienke, a 24 years old girl from a small village in the Netherlands, has recently gained her MA diploma in “Media Analysis and Journalism”, a well-consolidated degree programme offered by the Faculty of Political Science. Over the last two years, she has achieved excellent results in her study career, contributing to deepen the personal horizons of many VMU local students with her international experience and ending up defending a thesis entitled “Mediated Female Beauty in Dutch Beauty Blogs”, an interesting research on the ways women are being represented in the modern social media. 

During her experience at VMU, Nienke has literally entered the hearts of many members of the university community, and this has happened not only for her great skills as a student. In fact, she has also taken part in the most various initiatives organized by VMU International Office and by other student organizations in Kaunas, including the project “Erasmus for Lithuanian Schools”, the so-called “Cultural Nights”, and has also shown to be an active component of the “VMU Ambassadors Club”. During her study experience in Kaunas, Nienke had also the chance to apply for one of the student exchange opportunities offered by VMU. Thanks to one of the 140 university bilateral agreements that VMU has with higher education institutions of 40 different countries, Nienke got a place at the University of Tallinn. And after her previous study experience in Latvia, she finally realized her personal dream to study in all the Baltic States. 
 
Throughout her stay in Kaunas, she has injected enthusiasm in the life of many people, spreading her passion for flying hot-air balloons and the amazing charm of photography. Her blog, full of passionate stories and photo-reportages on her trips and experiences in the Baltic States and neighboring countries, has become an inevitable reference point for many Lithuanian net surfers as well as for the international internet visitors. Thanks to her photos, the VMU community had the possibility to see the beauties of Lithuania through the eyes of a foreigner. Her great spirit of initiative has made Nienke a recognized student within the university. Her experience shows how VMU international students are unique and extremely valuable personalities for all the university members. Every year Vytautas Magnus University welcomes within its community a growing number of international students, putting a lot of efforts in order to make them feel like at home and enjoy their studies.

Random observations in Turkey – July 2014

– There are many old Renault cars still driving around here

– Where are all the women?

– I haven’t seen any single piece of media depicting women in a sexually objectifying way. I did see a picture of Pamela Anderson holding a bag of crisps though, but her (probably in not so many clothes wrapped) body was so to say cut off, leaving only her head left on the picture.

– Hardly anyone seems to understand me here when I speak English

– Minors working on building sides and driving motor cycles (boys, of course)

– The majority of Chinese passengers do not speak English, which often leads to unpleasant situations during the landing procedure

– Especially when visiting a bazaar, I feel kind of watched. Mothers point me out to their children, after which they kindly start to wave. Furthermore, lots of Asian passengers had a picture taken with me.

– Atatürk sculptures and his depiction on flags

– Clean, beautiful and calm street dogs which are not begging for food

–  Passengers from India seem to ask a lot of questions during the flight. “What is that tunnel for?” or “Why is that other balloon flying so high?”.

– It’s pleasant to be from a likable little country. People respond very enthusiastic when I state I’m from the Netherlands.

– I haven’t seen clear signs of poverty at all

– Somehow, all people with whom I spoke here, wanting to say ‘Swedish’, all said ‘Swiss’ instead

After 13 fantastic flights and many early wake-ups it’s time for a well deserved rest now. Pictures will follow soon!

29 + 30 June + 1 July: enjoying Cappadocia by foot and balloon

29 June:
What a short night. I was introduced to a special tradition tied to the Ramadan, being a guy playing a drum, walking down several living blocks a couple of times, for at least an hour around two o’clock in the night. Not that funny when the alarm clock is set at 03.00! The reason why some of these loud guys walk around in Turkish towns is to give a sign to all the inhabitants that it’s their last opportunity to eat. After the drum session the abstention continues. It must be hard for Muslims to work all day, with 30 degrees or higher outside, but without eating and especially drinking for so many hours. At the office of Rainbow Balloons huge food packets (like Christmas packets in the Netherlands) were offered to all employees joining the one month abstention. Bennie and I made a nice flight together with Arturo, a pilot from Spain. Because of his yearly examination, carried out by a Turkish pilot from another balloon company, we took off a bit further away from the other balloons. We also flew relatively high, while flying low is certainly the most awesome thing to do here. During the afternoon, after a nice walk through Pigeon Valley, my father and I strolled around warm Avanos a bit. What I particularly noticed was that hardly any Turkish women can be seen on the streets. Young boys on motor bikes and old men just hanging around where, on the other hand, to be seen everywhere. At a newly established restaurant called Mado I enjoyed yet another portion of baklava; hmm! Later that evening, when the Netherlands eventually defeated Mexico  with 2-1 (yes!), I tried a Turkish pasta dish called Manti, which was exceptionally good! The pasta is covered with a layer of yoghurt in which a fair portion of fresh garlic is processed. I ‘enjoyed’ this taste for at least a day, because I didn’t manage to get rid of that garlic flavor that easily.
30 June:
A long hot day started off with a beautiful balloon flight together with Arturo and a bunch of passengers from Spain and Australia. The latter had some typical ‘Flying Doctors’ faces actually! We flew nicely low through the valleys and close along Uchisar castle. The Turkish crew members were in a jolly mood. The let me open up the alcohol free champagne which was of course a bit shaken on forehand and they also made me fly a second time that day for a second, with a soft landing on the envelope. They somehow also wanted to take many selfies with me. After the flight we went with a small group consisting of Arturo, my dad and a friendly young Spanish couple to Ihlara valley. We walked around 10 kilometers in between two huge cliffs. A refreshing river, which we eventually had to cross bare feet, gave some refreshment. Lots of little churches were to be found hidden in the rocks, but thousands of years of rain and wind made it difficult to imagine how beautiful everything must have looked liked at the time being. Even the Spaniards considered it to be extremely hot today, so imagine my poor white skin desperately being protected by factor 50+. We eventually visited another rock formation where people once used to live, in Selime, and afterwards we paid a short visit to a caravanserai, which was used as a kind of hostel for travelers on the Silk Route. We got back around 17.00, after having been awake since 03.00, so at 19.00 I went to bed, only to wake up for the next flight of which the preparations would start eight hours later already again.
1 July:
The drum boy started half an hour before my alarm clock rang, so that was a good opportunity to slowly wake up already. This morning a flight was scheduled together with a Turkish pilot named Mehmet. He showed to be a good one, letting the balloon turn around nicely often (good for the pictures) and flying low through the valleys, close to the rocks, without hitting them. After a well deserved sleep it was time to visit Susan and her beautiful house, located partly in a rock. We enjoyed some food and the company of three rather fat dogs, but they were very sweet. Susan had to catch a flight to France so eventually my father and Arturo ended up firstly at Mado for some Turkish desserts and secondly at Fat Boys for a cold beer. Another lovely day in Cappadocia!